Say what you will about the "soulless" brand of movie mayhem served up by the likes of Michael Bay, Jerry Bruckheimer and Roland Emmerich; roll your eyes at the crassness of it all; but have no doubt: audiences love this stuff. They're not being hoodwinked or manipulated into seeing anything they don't want to see. They, we, I know exactly what I'm paying my tenner for.
On the way out of a screening of Emmerich's 2012, someone described the experience as "like an apocalyptic rollercoaster." And that's a pretty fair summary, if you ask me. These are sensorial thrill-rides, state-of-the-art theme park attractions as much as they are movies. Audiences want to be blown out of their seats by the audiovisual experience. As long as the plot is coherent, the characters are likeable enough for us to care whether they survive or not, there's an occasional laugh throw in to preserve that rollercoaster giddiness, well, there's your formula for this sort of thing. I can imagine select 3D scenes from this third Transformers film playing to sell-out crowds in any Universal Studios or techno theme park.
Dark of the Moon has stupendous scenes of destruction, perhaps even surpassing the aforementioned 2012. Director Bay's robot battles are epic. The hour-long showdown in a battered Chicago is worth the admission price alone. Vehicular carnage, military firepower, transformer face-offs galore--this sequence has it all, including skyscrapers being crushed and toppled by giant robot snakes. The 3D, too, is stunning, with a daredevil freefall by Josh Duhamel and his special ops rangers into a maelstrom of robo-carnage being the standout. It's eye-popping stuff, and just when you think Bay has peaked, he ups the ante tenfold until your brain can barely process what he and his filmmaking wizards have wrought with their limitless FX budget.
The series' throwaway humour is as hit-and-miss as ever, with John Turturro's oddball Agent Simmons and his even weirder German sidekick (Alan Tudyk) generating the most laughs. Ken Jeong is atrocious in his brief (but not brief enough) role as a paranoid office worker--probably the most grating comedy performance since Chris Tucker's screechy turn in The Fifth Element. Other series newcomers include John Malkovich and Frances McDormand; the former is given nothing to do, while the latter is good fun in her role as the brassy National Security Chief.
Duhamel and Tyrese are solid as ever in their stock gung-ho roles. Shia Laboeuf goes hysterical once too often but at least his character, Sam Witwicky, wants to join the action this time around. Brit model Rosie Huntington-Whitely is sweet as his new girlfriend, Carly, and makes a decent replacement for the Fox (whom I did miss, I have to say). In the transformers' cast, Leonard Nimoy makes a great contribution as the powerful and crucial Sentinel Prime.
I'm going to recommend Transformers: Dark of the Moon 3D to anyone who enjoyed the first movie, those who love action on a grand scale, or anyone who wants to see the potential of 3D technology. The SF prologue, including a nice alternate history reveal during the Apollo 11 EVA, showcases some breathtaking 3D framing and depth design. And the extended finale in Chicago is the must-see action event of the summer.
It's pretty much indefensible as anything but a thrill-ride, but I thoroughly enjoyed this one, as did the (astonishingly multi-cultural) audience at my IMAX 3D screening. It runs a bit long at two and a half hours, but once the Chicago sequence starts, you'll be gripped to the end.
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